Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
If you can dream it, you can do it. If you are prepared to face all odds, ready to put in hard work and excel in your field, success will be yours. All it requires is determination and patience and no matter what your roots are, you will be successful.
This has been the guiding philosophy of Mr. Kiran Deohans who came from a small town in Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, to become a celebrated Director of Photography (DoP) in the Indian film and advertising industry. He has to his credit hundreds of advertising films and Feature films like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Aks, Jodha Akbar, Agneepath, Ramaiya Vasta Vaiya, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, etc.
A filmi start to life
“I was born in a small town near Jalgaon, did my schooling and then came to Pune. I did my B.Sc and M.Sc at Fergusson College but was totally bored and frustrated. I was a painter, was interested in the creative field and a total Hindi film buff. I wanted to get into a field that would give vent to my creativity. That’s when I decided to join the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and, luckily, got admission immediately. I did not inform my family because I knew they would not approve. It was only when I was in the 2nd year at FTII that one of my friends accidently leaked the news to them. Fireworks followed of course, but then slowly they accepted my career choice, even started appreciating it,” he reveals.
Financially, he was going through a rough patch those days. His family had faced a major loss in business. “Luckily FTII was such a great place that money stopped becoming an issue after a few months,” says Mr. Deohans. “Some kids were from wealthy families and others from middle class homes like me, but on campus we were all equal…everything belonged to everyone. So, if a kid did not have money to pay the hostel rent, he would never have to ask for a loan. It was understood that his friends would chip in… even the canteen guy gave credit.” he laughs reminiscing.
Mr. Deohans had a hobby of painting and taking still photographs. “I started freelancing for newspapers by selling them stills. At that time, taking pictures was an expensive hobby as each roll of film would cost a lot, but even if I was able to sell one or two pictures it gave me enough money to last a month,” he recalls.
In retrospect, Mr. Deohans feels that FTII was like a laboratory. “The campus changes you, you grow and emerge as a different person. There is no caste, creed or religion there. In fact, this is true of the entire film industry. Your ability to get work depends only on how good you are at what you do and not on your religion. Your surname just does not count. For example, if someone is needed for an edit or a sound job, one simply asks for the technician whose job was well acknowledged in a certain film. No one is bothered about his caste or religion. I remember an incident at FTII – there was this Jain guy who was a camera man and we were shooting at a butchery He didn’t seem to be concerned about the location and I was surprised as the man ran far away even from the smell of eggs. “Doesn’t it bother you?” I asked. He shrugged and said ‘No, why should it? It’s my job. A Jain doctor does surgeries, does he not?”
Till he joined FTII, Mr. Deohans had only seen the Manmohan Desai, Dada Kondke variety of films… or perhaps Alfred Hitchcock or Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon. It was only at FTII that he came to know that there were so many styles and genres of films from various countries – Japanese, European, American. That there was an entire Indian regional film industry was in itself an eye opener!
“Another habit that I inculcated at the Institute was ‘reading’. In fact, as I had been a science student, I had not read literature classics. Then I saw some foreign films based on inter-personal relationships and was taken aback. I went to the library and started to read. ..Freud, Mark Twain, Aristotle, Vivekananda, Gandhi…and my understanding of the world grew. Around that time, Mr. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who is considered a Godfather at FTII, came for a lecture. I can still recall his words ‘Boys remember’ he told us, ‘when a person joins the NDA, he is serving the nation. If he becomes a doctor, he serves humanity …similarly you are in a position whereby with your vision, you can influence the world. Use it well and make your nation proud.’ I decided that I would go to Bombay, earn well, make a name for myself, but also ensure that I connect to cinema that promotes good ideas and never compromises on creativity and excellence.”
The Mumbai experience
Mr. Deohans started his career with Mr. Nadeem Khan and for three years worked as his Chief Assistant “I was lucky that I got a Chief Assistant Cameraman position immediately as Mr. Khans then Chief Assistant was leaving. Normally it takes two to three years just to reach that post. And then the stars favored me once again. I got my first Feature Film break in the first three years itself –Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. The film did extremely well. In fact, I got a Filmfare Award for Cinematography, becoming the first graduate of FTII to get a Filmfare Award.”
It was at that time that Mr. Deohans got his first reality check. He had been working in the film industry for five years but was still staying as a Paying Guest. ‘I was staying in a room in Bandra with six other persons… each one of us had our own bed and I was known by my bed number – Bed No. 1.” he recalls, laughing. ‘In those days technicians didn’t get paid well. I wanted to buy books, some camera equipment and not being able to do so was demoralizing and frustrating for me. I decided to take a sabbatical from Features and got fully into Advertising.”
“That, luckily for me, was a wonderful period for Advertising. New private television channels were opening and people were looking for fresh innovative ideas and styling. In those days Mr. Mansoor Khan and Mr. Sanjeev Sharma (now the owner of Optymistix) had a Production House called Mobius. I shot the maximum number of ads for them and it was this association, and my friend Mr. Amol Gupte’s conviction in my talent, that brought me QSQT. I also met Mr. Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra and shot lots of commercials for him. This was a fortunate period for me as I also met my wife, Aban, who was working in an Ad agency at that time and I shot and directed a corporate film for her,” Mr. Deohans says, smiling at the memory.
“And then, out of the blue, I got a call from Mr. Mehra asking me to meet him. I assumed it was for an ad film, so I was quite surprised when he asked if I would be the DOP for his first feature film – Aks. I decided it was time to move back to Features and that was prompted by three factors. One, I loved the script – it had so much for a DOP to do. Two, I had huge comfort levels with Mr. Mehra and Third, very importantly, I would be working with the iconic Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Subsequently, it was Amitji who recommended me to Mr. Karan Johar and that’s how I did Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, with both films being made practically back-to-back.”
True to his penchant for trying out new avenues, Mr. Deohans started making music videos. It started with Colonial Cousins – Leslie Lewis and Hari Haran. By this time Kiran and Aban had established their own Production House called Candid Creations. Their first music video, Krishna, was a hit and won several awards for Direction. They continued to make some fabulous videos for Colonial Cousins and Ms. Sunali Rathod.
After saying ‘no’ to several projects, Mr. Deohans once again got an offer which he could not refuse – Jodha Akbar. “It was a historical film and that in itself is so rare in the industry. We had grown up seeing Mughal-E-Azam so I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to push the creative envelope. Then I did Agneepath, which was another great experience. I also did a really nice film for Ms. Deepti Naval – Do Paisey Ki Dhoop, ChaarAaney Ki Baarish. I decided to give Features a break, when to my surprise, I got a phone call from Mr. Prabhudeva. I was keen to work with him and with Mr. Kumar Tauraniji from Tips and that’s how Ramaya Vasta Vaiya happened. Currently I am doing a very interesting sci-fi film – a time travel Tamil movie with Mr. Surya, the super star of Tamil cinema, directed by Mr. Vikram Kumar.”
“In fact, I have always wanted to do a Marathi film,” confides Kiran Deohans, “but surprisingly, offers for Marathi films don’t come to me because the producers probably think ‘his cost would be prohibitive’. I would love to contribute to my own language, my own cinema, so if a good project comes along, I would be more than happy to take it on.” he asserts.
Strong family ties
Mr. Kiran Deohans has a close, well-knit, happy family life. His wife, Aban Bharucha Deohans is a celebrated author and director. Her recent short film ‘Teaspoon’ was awarded the Best Screenplay at the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival and has also won several Awards nationally and internationally.
Kiran and Aban have a daughter, Tania Deohans, and son, Dave Deohans. Both have opted for the same creative field.
“At the end of the day, you must be happy with what you are doing,” advises Mr. Deohans to the youth of the country. “Today there are so many diverse opportunities and career options available and you do not even have to come to big cities for job options. India is a fast growing economy and if you work hard and focus, there is enough opportunity for everyone to grow.
Learn to enjoy what you are doing, live life to the fullest, explore every dream but at the end of the day, also learn to be a responsible citizen and a good human being,” he says with a smile.